Wizard Of Wishaw Spellbound For UK Title
It’s the second most prestigious event in the snooker calendar and Ronnie O’Sullivan remains favourite to take the 201 UK Championship title.
The UK Championship has come under further scrutiny from players this year as complaints about a lack of atmosphere and poor quality tables feature heavily in post-match interviews.
So long as Barry Hearn is in charge the grumbles about the format are likely to fall on deaf ears, however, snooker’s governing body have responded to the criticisms of playing conditions and table-fitters worked through the night on Sunday to address the problems.
And so we now move into the round of the last 16 and a two-table set-up, which will at least appease the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan who felt that the four tables in the main arena sapped the atmosphere from the event.
The tournament began last Wednesday with 128 players at the Barbican Centre in York. Between then and now we’ve lost Mark Selby, who was a second round loser to David Morris, Barry Hawkins, who conspired to throw away a 5-0 lead in a race-to-six, world number one Ding Junhui, who was beaten by youngster James Cahill in a classic, and Mark Allen, who was extremely unfortunate in losing to Rod Lawler on Tuesday evening.
O’Sullivan has hobbled, quite literally at times, his way through to the last 16. After breaking his ankle when out running he was close to pulling out of the tournament due to the pain. Scrappy wins against Daniel Wells, Peter Lines and Ben Woolaston have moved him into the latter stages of the tournament, and with the Rocket now stating that his ankle is feeling a lot better a fifth UK title is very much a possibility.
Of the rest, two players have stood out for me so far.
John Higgins’ victory against Matthew Stevens in the round of 32 is the best all-round performance I have seen in the past seven days and probably the best that the Scot has produced in front of the cameras for a very long time.
They say that form is temporary and class is permanent and if Higgins can reproduce that level for the remainder of the week then he has an outstanding chance here at odds of 16/1.
The other player to impress me this week so far is the in-form Shaun Murphy. The 2005 World Champion is beginning to reap the rewards of an improved approach to the game after, by his own admission, many years of taking things a bit too much for granted.
Although he hasn’t particularly flattered in the way that Higgins has so far, he’s shown great professionalism and application in defeats of Robin Hull and Jack Lisowski. He won this event in 2008 and has also reached two other semi-finals and a final, and is arguably now a much better player than he was then. Take some of the 15/2 available on The Magician.